Posts tagged ‘philanthropy’

September 3, 2015

Are You Smarter than a Fourth Grader?

A few weeks ago, I got to spend time with my niece Nicole and nephew Evan who were visiting Philadelphia before the start of the new school year in Florida. They’re wonderful kids, and it was great seeing them.

Evan by Michael Rosen

My nephew, Evan.

One evening when 9-year-old Evan and I were hanging out, I decided to ask him an odd question to see where it might go:

If you wanted someone to give you money, what would you do?”

Evan, who just entered the fourth grade and has no fundraising experience, replied:

I’d ask them.”

Bingo! Evan instinctively knows one of the fundamental rules of fundraising: If you want donations, you have to ask for them.

So, are you smarter than a fourth grader?

Since you’re reading this post, I’m going to assume you know the general importance of the ask in the fundraising process. However, knowing and doing are two different things. So, let me ask you a few more questions:

Do you ask for planned gifts?

While 88.7 percent of people surveyed say that it’s appropriate for a nonprofit organization to ask for a legacy gift, researchers found that only 22 percent of those over the age of 30 have been asked. In other words, there are a huge number of people who are willing to be asked for a planned gift but who are not.

Even among those charities that do ask people to make a planned gift, the ask is reserved for a very narrow group of prospects that might include major donors, board members, and people who have requested planned giving information. Those asks are most often made during face-to-face visits.

On the other hand, wise organizations also use direct mail and the telephone to reach out to a broad number of prospects to ask them to make a planned gift commitment.

One smart nonprofit organization that has successfully used direct mail to ask for legacy gifts is the Natural Resources Defense Council. They did two mailings involving a total of 50,000 pieces that generated $8.5 million in bequest commitments. You can see a sample of the mailing by clicking here.

A university in Texas targeted 7,000 alumni with a mail promotion for Charitable Gift Annuities, following up direct-mail-generated leads with phone calls that resulted in $730,000.

An orchestra in the Pacific Northwest implemented a coordinated mail/phone campaign involving 2,200 prospects in an effort that produced an estimated $2 million in bequest expectancies.

If your organization wants more planned gifts, you need to ask more people to give. While face-to-face asks will always be important, you can ask far more people by using direct mail and the phone as well, just like your organization does for the annual fund.

You can find more details about the examples I’ve cited, additional examples, and helpful tips in my award-winning book Donor-Centered Planned Gift Marketing.

Do you ask supporters to enroll in a monthly-giving program?

In 1989, I predicted that virtually every charity would have a monthly-giving program within five years. Sadly, I could not have been more wrong. I shouldn’t have been, but I was. Now, more than a quarter-century later, shockingly few charities ask supporters to give monthly.

A great way to enhance your organization’s donor-retention rate while upgrading the amount of support from donors is to ask donors to give monthly.

Some of my friends and I believe so strongly in the power of monthly giving that we participated in this short, light-hearted video on the subject:

If you’re not asking your supporters to give monthly, you’re organization is missing a great opportunity. For powerful advice on how to run a monthly-giving program, checkout Harvey McKinnon’s book Hidden Gold, and Erica Waasdorp’s book Monthly Giving: The Sleeping Giant.

Do you ask donors to upgrade their support?

September 1, 2015

A Charity Scandal with a Surprising Twist

Yet another charity scandal has made headlines. What makes this ongoing situation startling is that the charities involved are the victims while government is the offender.

“Nearly $10 million in charitable donations by California taxpayers sat unspent in government accounts at the end of last year, The Associated Press has found, and the Senate Governance and Finance Committee chairman said Thursday that he wants a review of state accounts and will hold a hearing to find out why the money hasn’t been spent.”

Since 2005, California has collected $35 million for 29 funds. The state’s taxpayers donated the money when filing their tax returns. The money was supposed to go to a variety of charitable organizations ranging from cancer research to wildlife protection.

“’This is just embarrassing. It’s unacceptable. People expect their money to be spent for these important purposes and these delays, you know, they’re not explainable to me,’ said Sen. Bob Hertzberg, D-Van Nuys. ‘So I just learned about it, but I’m going to jump on it,’” according to the AP report.

Sadly, California is not alone in mishandling taxpayer donations to charity. For example, “New York’s top financial officer found donations languishing in its tax checkoff funds,” according to the AP.

While well intentioned, the government’s efforts to help charities have not always been efficiently or properly managed. I’m reminded of a famous quote from a former California Governor, President Ronald Reagan:

In 1986, Reagan famously said, “The nine most terrifying words in the English language are: ‘I’m from the government, and I’m here to help.’”

While Democratic administrations in both California and New York have mishandled money meant for charities, Democrats do not have a monopoly on making life difficult for nonprofit organizations.

While it initially looked like the Republican controlled US Congress might quickly enact certain charitable giving incentives including the IRA Charitable Rollover, the body failed to act before the summer recess. With a full legislative calendar awaiting the return of lawmakers, it’s unclear if or when the matter of charitable giving incentives will be addressed. This means that even if Congress passes measures that would benefit charities, nonprofit organizations will once again have very little time to promote those opportunities to donors prior to the end of the year.

While government can and should take steps to help the nonprofit sector, charities should not wait expectantly for assistance. Furthermore, even when assistance is promised, charities should not expect such assistance to be delivered in a timely or efficient manner.

As Doug White, Director for the Master of Science in Fundraising Management program at Columbia University, told the AP, “They are not in the business of charity. The government has its own issues.”

Another way in which government hurts the nonprofit sector is through burdensome, costly regulation that does little or nothing to protect the public interest. Such regulations divert donor funds away from the fulfillment of charitable missions.

While government action and in-action has a direct cost for nonprofits, the problem could be much greater. For example, in California, donors may now distrust the government to such a degree that they will no longer bother to designate funds for charities. Time will tell.

So, what can you do?:

August 27, 2015

Is the Facebook “Donate Now” Button: Dumb or Helpful?

Facebook has unveiled a new option that could benefit the nonprofit sector:

We are excited to introduce a new ‘Donate Now’ call-to-action option on both link ads and Pages. Now, it’s easier than ever for nonprofits to connect with people who care about their causes and encourage them to contribute through the website of their choice.”

Many in the media were quick to applaud the move by Facebook:

“This is definitely a valuable tool for nonprofits…” — TechCrunch

“This new Facebook feature is hard not to like.” — Huffpost Impact

“…nonprofits won’t be complaining now that they have easier access to a billion and a half potential donors.” — Mashable

“Charities welcome Facebook decision to let them use ‘donate now’ buttons.” — Third Sector

However, not everyone greeted the announcement with great enthusiasm.

Steven Shattuck, Vice President of Marketing at Bloomerang, outlined his issues with this new feature in his post “The Facebook Page Donate Now Button Is Dumb and I Hate It”:

In my mind, this button is problematic for two reasons: 1) This is an obvious ploy by Facebook to get you to buy ads … 2) There is no organic path to the donate button that makes any logical sense or has any basis in reality…. I don’t buy it. It’s the equivalent of a coffee shop putting their tip jar outside and around the corner.”

Non-Profits on FacebookHere is how Facebook designed the “Donate Now” button to work. A nonprofit organization can put the button on its Facebook page and in its ads. People who click on the button will first see a Facebook disclaimer box and then be taken to the organization’s own donation page.

Shattuck writes, “So should you set up the button? Probably. There’s really no downside per se and the whole process takes less than a minute.”

While there might not be a downside to the “Donate Now” button on Facebook, is there an upside as some have suggested or is Shattuck right to think the button is “dumb”?

August 20, 2015

Fundraising and Marketing Does Not Have to be Hard or Costly

Marketing and fundraising for a nonprofit organization can be time consuming and expensive. But, it does not always have to be.

One way to market and raise money for your organization with little effort and no cost is to include a simple tagline in your email signature. The tagline can promote a program, event, general fundraising, or even planned giving.

email symbol on row of colourful envelopesRecently, one of my readers contacted me looking for email tagline tips and examples. Because I take topic requests, I’m devoting this post to the subject of taglines. If you have a subject you’d like me to address, just let me know with a comment below.

Before I get to email signature taglines, I want to quickly make a point about email signatures, in general: You should always use one. An email signature, with your name and full contact information, will make it easier for people to communicate with you and, if they are so moved, to give you money. So, use an email signature block in new and reply emails. If you want tips on constructing an email signature, checkout my post: “Remove Obstacles to Giving!”

An email tagline should come immediately after your email signature block. There are six factors that will make your micro-message standout:

1.  Actually use a tagline. As Woody Allen said, “80 percent of success is showing up.” If you want a successful email tagline, you have to use an email tagline. Even a mediocre tagline will be better than having none.

2.  Speak to Your Audience. Before you can speak to your audience, you need to know your audience. In the case of orchestra supporters, many like to see themselves as true patrons of the arts. Therefore, using a term such as “musical legacy” might resonate. For other types of nonprofit organizations, however, the term “legacy” might be off-putting. So, be sure to know your audience before crafting your message.

3.  Keep it pithy. An email tagline should be no more than 10 words in length. The fewer words you can use to get your point across, the better.

August 17, 2015

Urgent Alert: Immediate Action Needed to Defend Nonprofits

There is an alarming issue you need to be aware of.

While I do not use this blogsite to engage in partisan politics, that does not mean that I avoid politics and government relations altogether. I consider myself a bi-partisan, vigorous defender of the nonprofit sector.

CA State House by David Grant via Flickr

California State House

Over the years, I’ve worked with both Democrats and Republicans in my capacity as Chairman of the Association of Fundraising Professionals Political Action Committee, Chairman of the AFP Greater Philadelphia Chapter Government Relations Committee, and a member of the AFP US Government Relations Committee. I’ve even represented AFP in testimony before the Federal Trade Commission.

As a passionate defender to the nonprofit sector and a cheerleader for voluntary philanthropy, I took notice of a recent post on The Agitator blog. Fundraising legend Roger Craver sounded an alert and issued a call to action over a dangerous move by the California Attorney General.

Never before have I reprinted a blog post. However, this issue is so important that, with Roger’s permission, I am sharing his post with you now:

 

If you’re willing to turn over the list of your top donors to the government then you need read no further.

However, if you’re not sure, or you’re absolutely certain you’d be unwilling to give up the donor list, then take this post to your CEO and General Counsel. Immediately.

Why? Because right now the Attorney General of California is set on requiring that any nonprofit seeking a license to solicit funds in the nation’s largest state first turn over their lists of top donors that are filed with the IRS on a supposedly “confidential” schedule of your tax return.

This dangerous and unconstitutional power grab in the name of ‘fundraising regulation’ and ‘consumer protection’ must be stopped.

And it’s up to all of us—nonprofits and the companies that serve them to stand up now and take action.

Whether or not your organization or one you serve solicits funds in California the battle ahead will affect the freedom of speech and privacy rights of every nonprofit in the U.S. and their donors.

In a moment I’ll outline the steps you can take immediately to head off this threat. But first some background.

A year ago this week The Agitator warned about a sinister move by the Oklahoma Attorney General and his special interest contributors to silence the Humane Society of United States (HSUS) using that state’s fundraising regulations.

HSUS has boldly and, so far, successfully fought back.

As I pointed out last August there have been relatively few occasions in modern history where politicians have blatantly sought to use the power of their office to silence nonprofits that opposed them or whose views and ideology they disagreed with.

At the end of the day, Americans and the U.S. Supreme Court have shown little tolerance for political zealots and bullies who abuse U.S. Constitution’s guarantees of free speech and due process.

NOW …The Intimidators At It Again. And We Must Make Sure They Lose. Again.

August 12, 2015

23 Sources for Powerful #Fundraising Tips that Will Get Results

Most fundraising professionals want to achieve better results. Unfortunately, finding the insights and tips that will help you enhance your development efforts is challenging. So many information resources exist. However, which sources are the best?

Last week, I reported that Fundlio created a valuable resource list: “20 Fundraising Blogs Every Nonprofit Organization Leader Should Be Reading Now.” I’m honored to have my blogsite included on the list.

Now, I’m honored to report that my blog has been included on yet another list of must-read sites. Chris Baylis of The Sponsorship Collective has written: “23 Fundraising Websites and Blogs Every Fundraiser Should Read.”

Information Hydrant by Will Lion via FlickrTo compile the list, Baylis says, “My preference is for blogs that provide good content, comic relief and tips and tricks that I can implement right away.”

Baylis has done fundraising professionals a great service by putting the list together. While his list is not exhaustive, as he himself admits, it is certainly another great place to start if you’re looking for wisdom in the vast sea of information on the Internet. I encourage you to checkout the list and visit some of the blogs with which you might not yet be familiar.

August 10, 2015

Special Report: Hillary Clinton Wants to Limit Charitable Deduction, Could Cost Charities Billions

[Publisher’s Note: “Special Reports” are posted from time-to-time as a benefit for subscribers and frequent visitors to this blog. “Special Reports” are not widely promoted. To be notified of all new posts, including “Special Reports,” please take a moment to subscribe in the right-hand column. New subscribers will also receive a free e-book from researcher Dr. Russell James.]

 

Hillary Clinton, the current frontrunner for the Democratic Party nomination for President of the USA, put forward a plan that could cost the nonprofit sector billions of dollars in voluntary donations.

Hillary Clinton

Hillary Clinton

Like President Barack Obama, Clinton announced that she would seek to impose a cap on tax deductions, including the deduction for charitable giving.

On the campaign trail, Clinton proposed the “new college compact.” At a town hall meeting in New Hampshire on Monday, August 10, Clinton announced a plan to reduce the cost of four-year public schools, make two-year community colleges tuition-free, and cut student loan interest rates.

To pay for the $350 billion plan, Clinton would seek to impose the same 28 percent cap on itemized deductions that we have seen in Obama’s proposed budgets. Charitable deductions are not exempt from this plan. Currently, taxpayers may claim up to a 35 percent charitable deduction.

When Obama proposed a similar tax policy, the Charitable Giving Coalition issued the following statement:

Any caps or limits on charitable giving will have a devastating impact on charities and nonprofits. If donors have less incentive to give to charities — donations will decline, impeding the important work nonprofits do for the millions of Americans who rely on them. For example, up to $5.6 billion in charitable giving would be lost each year if the President’s proposal to cut the charitable deduction were enacted.”

Like the Obama plan, the Clinton proposal would also negatively affect charitable giving. Nevertheless, “Clinton aides believe their plan will help build enthusiasm for her candidacy with younger voters,” according to an Associated Press report.

The cynical effort of the Clinton campaign to buy the youth vote reminds me of two quotes from Alexis de Tocqueville, the 19th century philosopher and historian:

August 4, 2015

20 Fundraising Blogsites that Will Help You Get Results

I must admit that I don’t usually have much interest in “Best of…” or “Top…” lists. However, if I’ve had direct experience with the people or organizations on the list or if I find myself included, I’ll take notice.

fundraising-blogsThat was recently the case when I read “20 Fundraising Blogs Every Nonprofit Organization Leader Should Be Reading Now,”  an article written by Fundlio, a company offering custom mobile giving apps for nonprofit organizations and churches.

On the list, I found a number of blogsites I regularly visit and respect. And I was honored to find my own site among the top 20 blogs mentioned. While there are some first-rate blogs that did not make it on to the list, Fundlio has done fundraising professionals a great service by compiling the list.

July 29, 2015

Update: Spelman College Returns Gift from Bill Cosby

Seven months ago, I first reported that Spelman College announced the suspension of an endowed professorship in humanities that was funded by Bill and Camille Cosby. At that time, I called on the College to either renegotiate the gift or return it to the Cosby family.

Post No Bills by Jon Mannion via FlickrOn July 26, 2015, the College revealed its decision to terminate The William and Camille Olivia Hanks Cosby Endowed Professorship and to return the donation to the Clara Elizabeth Jackson Carter Foundation, established by Camille Cosby.

Last December, Spelman issued this one-paragraph statement:

December 14, 2014 — The William and Camille Olivia Hanks Cosby Endowed Professorship was established to bring positive attention and accomplished visiting scholars to Spelman College in order to enhance our intellectual, cultural and creative life; however, the current context prevents us from continuing to meet these objectives fully. Consequently, we will suspend the program until such time that the original goals can again be met.”

Amid mounting accusations of sexual assault involving Bill Cosby, the College decided to terminate the endowed professorship. As of this publication date, Cosby has not been charged with any related crime.

As I stated in my December post, nonprofit organizations are ethically required to use a donor’s contribution in the way in which the donor intended. The applicable portions of the Donor Bill of Rights “declares that all donors have these rights”:

IV. To be assured their gifts will be used for the purposes for which they were given….

V. To receive appropriate acknowledgement and recognition….

VI. To be assured that information about their donations is handled with respect and with confidentiality to the extent provided by law.”

The relevant passages from the Association of Fundraising Professionals Code of Ethical Principles state:

14. Members shall take care to ensure that contributions are used in accordance with donors’ intentions….

16. Members shall obtain explicit consent by donors before altering the conditions of financial transactions.”

By returning the gift after deciding not to use it for the intended purpose, the College acted ethically. However, a number of other ethical questions remain unanswered:

July 23, 2015

IRA Rollover Poised to Make a Comeback

I have some good news.

The US Congress has begun the process to revive the Charitable IRA Rollover which expired at the end of 2014. Now, it’s time for you to take action.

On Tuesday, July 21, 2015, the Senate Finance Committee approved a number of tax extender provisions including the IRA Rollover. While the Committee considered making the IRA Rollover provision permanent, it ultimately settled on a two-year extension.

US CapitolFinance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-UT) said, “This markup [of the bill] will give the Committee a timely opportunity to act on extending a number of expired provisions in the tax code that help families, individuals and small businesses. This is the first time in 20 years where a new Congress has started with extenders legislation having already expired, and given that these provisions are meant to be incentives, we need to advance a package as soon as possible.”

Ranking Committee Member Ron Wyden (D-OR) said, “The tax code should work for, not against, Americans. We need to extend these tax provisions now in order to provide greater certainty and predictability for middle class families and businesses alike. However, as we look beyond next week, it’s critical we all recognize and take action to end this stop and go approach to tax policy through extenders.”

The House of Representatives has yet to take action though Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, remains interested in legislation that would make the IRA Rollover permanent. However, ultimately, the House might bring its thinking into alignment with the Senate Finance Committee. The House is expected to take up the issue as early as September.

When Democrats controlled the Congress, the IRA Rollover extensions were done a year at a time and often very late in the year. This made it challenging for both donors and nonprofit organizations to plan and to take full advantage of the provision.

With Republicans in full control of Congress, the House and Senate are considering the IRA Rollover provision earlier in the year and are considering a longer extension term. These are both good things for donors and charities.

It remains to be seen when final action will be taken and what that action will look like. It’s also unclear whether the Obama Administration will support the measure.

The Charitable Giving Coalition has long advocated for the IRA Rollover and other provisions that provide incentives for charitable giving. In addition to encouraging Congress to take action, the Coalition has sent the following letter to all Presidential candidates:

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